Since visiting the country for the first time in 1991, just at the beginning of the economic opening of the country, I have been following the developments in India and have been regularly engaged on projects relating to innovation and knowledge economics.
Could India become an Inclusive Knowledge Society?
This question is discussed by Srirang Jha, Apeejay School of Management (Delhi) in the recent issue of the Review of Knowledge Management.
He says that the approach and model of developing Knowledge Society in the country is “fundamentally” flawed. While the Planning Commission (Indian Government) already set up a task force in 2000 to transform the country into a knowledge super-power, few of the agenda items have been turned into action. In 2005, another commission, the National Knowledge Commission was launched to develop a road map for knowledge society development in the country which resulted in 300 recommendations in 27 focus areas. http://knowledgecommission.gov.in
Jha finds that the recommendations of the NKC are “unorthodox and progressive”, however, political establishment and bureaucracy tend to be slow in decision-making and “poor in implementation”, and he suggests that an inclusive knowledge society needs to be community-driven. Can such a bottom-up, largely self-organized development work without political leadership?
Developing Knowledge Society in India: Issues & Challenges (June 2012)
Events and activities:
Article on Pune – An Emerging Knowledge City?
Ansal University, Gurgaon: De Facto (March 2013) on Knowledge Cities
(see “Knowledge Cities”)
17-19 January 2013
International Conference on Sustainable Development
Presentation: The Global Knowledge Politics on Food Security
New Wadia College of Commerce, Pune
29-30 December 2012
9th International Conference on e-Governance
School of Communication and Management Studies, Cochin, Kerala
17 April 2012
Topic: Creating Socio-economic Value through Open Public Data
Public Lecture @ Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi
Design Public Conclave: Trust, Participation, Innovation
20 April 2012, National Museum, Delhi
Organised by the Centre for Knowledge Societies
Design Public is a high-level conversation among a select group of thinkers, decision-makers and opinion-leaders who seek to transform India into an innovation society.
Knowledge Globalization Conference @FLAME, Pune
5-7 January 2012
Knowledge Globalization sounds like an ambitious theme for a conference: how does knowledge globalize? Can it be globalized at all? Is all the knowledge we need to address this planet’s problems available, accessible, and transferable? Globalization has increased connectivity and channels of communications, but has it increased our channels of understanding?
The Boston-based Knowledge Globalization Institute (http://www.kglobal.org) founded by Dr. Mawdudur Rahman, is a foundation which aims to increase knowledge-sharing in the widest sense, across countries, disciplines and cultures.
This year’s conference was held in Pune, at the Foundation for Liberal Arts and Management Studies, a very special university opened in 2005 to provide an environment that is “conducive to evolving new knowledge which encourages the assimilation, dissemination and generation of new ideas”. (www.flame.edu.in)
In a country where business and IT colleges and schools mushroom, it seems like a bold investment to launch an international school which puts liberal arts and cross-disciplinary dialogue at the centre of its curriculum. Yet, it is an ideal place to discuss “knowledge” in all its dimensions. The beautiful hilly Maharashtra landscape provided a great surrounding for this gathering. Around 160 delegates from around the world attended the event, both from industry and academia.
Topics I often miss at business or tech focused Knowledge Management conferences, were addressed here, such as innovation in education, ethics and governance of knowledge, knowledge for sustainable economic development, the challenges of HR in dealing with knowledge workers, entrepreneurship, as well as knowledge on infrastructure planning in emerging economies.
Global education was one on the core topics at the conference. Neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist Jamshed Bharucha suggested that education needs to be more innovative at many levels, and would like to see more pedagogical innovation, innovation in curriculum as well as more liberal education. He also asked why so much of learning at schools and universities still focuses on content, not on critical thinking and problem-solving, and reminded the audience that “the dirty little secret about learning is that we forget.” How can we make learning more enduring throughout our professional lives?
Dr. Indira J Parikh, president of FLAME, pointed out that all learning must be rooted in our culture and identity, and that learning can only happen if existing judgments and stereotypes are constantly challenged, by ourselves and by others.
A special session of the conference was on culture, fonts, and the complex meaning of symbols, presented by Jack Yan; a New Zealand based digital typeface designer (http://www.jyanet.com/), who shared some fascinating insights about the story of designing the Indian Rupee symbol. The Indian rupee, one of the oldest currencies in the world, only got a symbol in 2010. It was created by a design student of IIT Bombay and introduced as national currency symbol in July 2010. Read the design story here: http://www.idc.iitb.ac.in/events/Indian_Rupee_Symbol.pdf
Another panel discussion, led by Prof. Raghuram of the Public Systems Group at IIM Ahmedabad, was around infrastructure and infrastructure knowledge in emerging economies. Capital intensive infrastructure is a challenge in many developing nations, however, the cost of building an intangible or social infrastructure, which includes planning knowledge and systemic capacity building, seems relatively less but may prove more expensive in the long run if one considers the cost of inaction and failed delivery due to poor planning.
An interesting example of an infrastructure knowledge problem is the public transport in Pune. This city of more than 5.5 million people has become a national centre for the automobile industry with companies like Bajaj (2-wheelers), Mercedes Benz, Hero Honda, and many others. One could assume that a lot of knowledge on mobility and urban infrastructure is accumulated and shared in this cluster, which could put Pune at the forefront of sustainable urban transport solutions. However, many citizens say that their city is one of the worst in India in terms of public transport. For non-Marathi speaking visitors, the bus system (which is the only public transport apart from auto rickshaws) is almost non-accessible. European automobile companies, which are engaging in developing concepts for the future of urban mobility in their home countries, don’t seem to transfer their knowledge to emerging economies, and limit their activity to producing and selling their products in India.
While global knowledge is available, it is not necessarily shared. Could global knowledge sharing be seen as part of the corporate social responsibility? CSR was another focus of discussion, and rightly so, since one of the first companies which committed to share its wealth with the disadvantaged and introduced social welfare, was Tata Steel in 1907; long before the term was coined in Western Management in 1953. Tata today is perhaps one of the few large companies that engages in CSR not because it is something they have to do, but because they wanted to do it, based on internal motivation and ethics, as Prof. Hector Andrade (FLAME) suggested.
In the closing panel on “CSR, corporate governance and spirituality”, Vallabh Bhanshali, one of the founder directors of FLAME, venture capitalist and co-founder of Enam Securities, reinforced this idea and said that concepts must be lived in practice otherwise they become irrelevant. He also returned to the philosophical and spiritual starting point of the conference where the audience was introduced to the earliest document of the human mind, the Vedas, as well as a Hindustani classical music performance, and said “Focus – and you become still; stillness is the first virtue – you learn nothing until you pay attention.”
Detailed conference programme http://ocs.sfu.ca/kglobal/index.php/conf2011/2011India/schedConf/program
Twitter hashtag #kglobal
6 February 2011
TEDx Velammal, Chennai: New Ideas for India
Speaking on “National Innovation Systems” at the Quality of Growth conference in Delhi (September 2009): Approaches to Inclusive Development in Asian Societies organized by the Planning Commission of the Indian Government and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. http://www.quality-of-growth.net/
A seminar on “Democracy and sustainability in emerging economies: India as a case study” organised by the Salzburg Global Seminar and 21st Century Trust in collaboration with The Environment Foundation and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and in association with TERI’s 2009 Delhi Sustainable Development Summit
Since 2007 I am teaching a course on “Information Society/Knowledge Economy” at the International School of Information Management in Mysore. www.isim.ac.in We are currently conducting a study on India and China: A knowledge economy perspective. Please contact us to learn more about this research: info (at) knowledgedialogues.com
CII Panel Discussion on Delhi Smart City 2020
Other ongoing research projects:
- Right to Information Act (RTI)
- National Knowledge Commission
- Open Government Data
- Knowledge Cities
If you have suggestion for a research collaboration, we are looking forward to hearing from you.